Obviously I am not the most reliable blogger

December 12, 2011

Here are the things I have been reading instead of stuff I could be writing about here:

After I came back from my trip — actually, there are a couple of books I read while I was away that I have yet to post about–I reread Kate Ross’ Julian Kestrel books. If you like historical mysteries, anything set during the Regency era, upper class amateur detectives, or historical novels written in the ’90s (this is absolutely its own category), you will probably like these. If you aren’t particularly interested in any of those things, you might like them anyway. They’re really good.

Julian Kestrel is a dandy with a mysterious past. Everyone in 1820s London knows who he is, but no one knows very much about him. His valet, Dipper, was a pickpocket who tried to steal Julian’s wallet shortly after his arrival in London, and against whom Julian decided not to press charges. The mystery stuff starts when Julian, during a stay at a friend’s country house, finds a dead body in his bed. That’s in Cut to the Quick, which also introduces us to Dr. Duncan McGregor, a crotchety local doctor who becomes one of Julian’s best friends. Next comes A Broken Vessel, in which Dipper’s sister Sally gets Julian involved in a death at a reformatory for prostitutes. In Whom the Gods Love, a distraught father enlists Julian’s help in discovering the murderer of his son (who, unsurprisingly, turns out to be much less perfect than anyone had thought). The fourth book, The Devil in Music, finds Julian, Dipper, and McGregor in Italy, where they investigate the death of Marchese Lodovico Malvezzi, recently discovered to be a murder.

Sadly, that’s all there is, except for a couple of short stories. Kate Ross died in 1998. Maybe that’s easier to deal with when you know going into the series that you’re going to be left hanging?

Anyway, the books are great. Julian is cool and mysterious, the supporting characters are always fun, and the mysteries are interesting to read even when you know how they end. I read the whole series every few years, and this reread was particularly enjoyable because I realized exactly how deeply the books have embedded themselves in my brain. There are so many lines that I think about all the time without thinking consciously about where they come from.

So, yeah. Unqualified recommendation.

Other than that, I read a couple more Georgette Heyers that I picked up at that library book sale, and now I’m reading A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book, which…so far totally okay, I guess? I have a difficult relationship with modern novels, but I like Posession a lot. I found a copy of The Children’s Book lying on the sidewalk, so I picked it up and took it home. A lot of it is interesting, and it intersects with bits of history I like, but I can’t guarantee that I’ll finish it.


  1. I absolutely adore these books! It’s so sad that there aren’t more. But you’ve intrigued me with your mention of “a couple of short stories”. Please, please, could you (would you) give us details? I don’t think I knew about them or have read them.

    • I actually only found out about them recently. There are two, in two separate anthologies. One is about Julian Kestrel and the other features an 18th century female detective. I’ve ordered both books for my mom for Christmas, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to read them pretty soon.

  2. So great that you remember Julian Kestrel – 2nd time in a couple weeks he has been plugged – the other one was in another blog talking about favorite historical fiction males (http://janetility.com/?p=396#comments) – also recommended another favorite of mine the Sebastian St Cyr books. Glad that Ross books are not forgotten.

    • Thanks for the link — Julian Kestrel is one of my favorite men in historical fiction, too, so I should probably check out the others on her list.

  3. These sound really fun. Is he like a Regency Wimsey?

    • Sort of. He doesn’t have Wimsey’s wealth and pedigree and you can see it in his personality — it’s clear that he’s not really part of the establishment, even when he appears to be. But I suspect Kate Ross was a big Sayers fan.

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